Introducing AmeriKia

I am terrible at starting blogs, because opening lines always seem contrived.  Nothing is as contrived as an opening line that draws attention to its own contrivance.  Damn.  I always screw this up.

It’s Thursday night.  On Monday at midnight I leave Perth, Western Australia, where I’ve lived for fifteen years to start a magical new life in the swamps of Louisiana.  Only not really the swamps.  And probably not that magical.  We shall see.

This blog exists to document my observations about life (as an outsider/dirty filthy foreigner) in the south of the United States.  It’ll also serve as a general log of  the frustrations and foibles involved in an international move, life as a grad student and life as a single mid-twenties Australian lady-thing/writer person.

First of all, let’s talk a little bit about Perth.

There’s a general assumption that moving from one Western nation to another Western nation probably isn’t that different.  This was what I thought at the tender age of 10, when I moved from the UK to Australia.  Turns out I was wrong.  There’s something singularly unnerving about being in a surrounding that, whilst mostly familiar, contains enough jarring elements to make you question whether you’ve stumbled through the looking glass.  For me, at age 10, this was restricted to differences in slang and colloquialisms (“What’s a felt tip pen!?  DO YOU MEAN A TEXTA!?”) and being mercilessly teased for sounding like a character from a Charles Dickens novel.  Now, as an adult, I have numerous excitements to look forward to; driving on the other side of the road, America’s fascination with putting things that do not belong in cans, in cans (cheese?  What?) and a need to curb my enthusiastic use of the c-word (note: not cheese).

So.  Perth.

According to Wikipedia (the most reliable source of information on the internet, am I right?), Perth was founded in 1829 by Captain James Stirling.  I watched a movie about him in grade 5.  It had lots of topless women in it.  Our teacher enjoyed it very much.

Perth still has quite a lot of topless women in it, particularly during summer when it is hot as balls.  The population is around 1.74 million, although if you live in Perth, you’d swear the population is more in the order of several hundred.  It is virtually impossible to live in the metropolitan area and not see at least one person with whom you are acquainted every time you leave the house.  There’s a popular theory that everyone in the world is only six degrees/steps separated from everyone else.  In Perth, this shrinks to about two degrees of separation.  The practice of bumping into someone to whom you are a) distantly related b) have at least 5 mutual friends in common with or c) have some other odd/bizarre/tenuous link with is known as ‘getting Perthed’.

Perth is bounded by a fucking huge ocean on one side, and an uninhabitable desert on the other.  It is cheaper and quicker to fly to Indonesia than it is to travel interstate.  Perth is sometimes referred to as the most isolated city in the world.

For other completely factual and 100% true tidbits of information about Perth, please refer to this video:

This is Perth

Now let’s talk about New Orleans.

New Orleans was founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company/some French chap named Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.  Try saying that three times fast.  This makes it roughly a lot older than Perth.

According to Wikipedia, the population of the actual city of New Orleans is only around 340 thousand.  If you extend that to outlying parishes, it jumps to just over a million.

Like Perth, New Orleans is bounded by some geographical wizardry that can make it seem kind of isolated, namely the ocean and a dickload of swamp.  I’ve visited New Orleans a few times, and it’s always sort of felt ‘about the same size’ as Perth, only with considerably less urban sprawl.  I can’t quite tell if the stats hold up that theory, but that’s certainly how it feels.

Unlike Perth, New Orleans is a city that exists in the imaginations of many.  Perth exists in the imaginations of about two semi-well-known novelists (both from Perth) and maybe those of us who live here (roughly 50% of whom probably like to imagine ways to improve it).  Perth isn’t a bad place, but it has suffered from a lack of cultural vibrancy.  We could argue about why Perth became ‘stale’ (in fairness, it’s been picking up over the past few years) but that’s another rant for another day.  Suffice to say it’s not terribly well known, and the most oft uttered comment about it is “It’s very laid back!” followed by “…and clean!”.

New Orleans, on the other hand, has a reputation all her own.  Where Perth is a little bit culturally antiseptic, New Orleans has culture, art, music and vibrancy coming out of her ears.  New Orleans swelters in some sort of culturally arty stewy type thing.  Perth is a bland culture cracker with a little bit of cheese (maybe in a can.  Maybe not in a can).

Do I think it will be an adjustment?  Most certainly.  For a start, it has to be said that the crime rate in New Orleans is about 7000 times that of Perth, where often the most interesting story on the front page of the newspaper is “There was some hail.  Like, quite a lot of hail.  HAIL, YOU GUYS!” (no, really – it should be noted that we had similar headlines this year, only said ‘FREAK APOCALYPSE STORM!’ failed to show up, and we were all left scratching our heads and wondering what to do with our camp stoves, generators and sandbags).

I’m also anticipating many, many, many requests to do impersonations of the Crocodile Hunter and/or to repeat words in my ‘amusing’ accent.

First, though, I have to get there.

That’s the fun part.

Here’s the thing: Australia is very far away from all the things.  Generally when people want to leave Australia, they don’t.  Seriously.  The number of people in this country who have never LEFT this country (except to go to Bali, which almost doesn’t count) is startling.  It’s expensive to fly anywhere from Australia.  It also takes a very, very, very long time.

My travel itinerary for the move looks something like this:

Monday night: Depart Perth for Launceston, Tasmania.

Tuesday morning: Arrive Launceston, Tasmania.

Spend week in Tasmania getting drunk with best friend.

Sunday night: Depart Launceston, Tasmania for Melbourne, Australia.

Depart Melbourne, Australia for Sydney, Australia.

Depart Sydney, Australia, for Nadi, Fiji.

– yep, that’s right.  I haven’t even arrived in Fiji yet and I’ve already taken three internal flights.

Monday sometime (?): Arrive Nadi, Fiji.

Monday later: Depart Nadi, Fiji for Los Angeles, Callifornia.

Insert agonising queue for immigration and customs here.  Fully expect to be poke, prodded and asked many, many questions about what I am doing in the United States.  Will not joke about firearms/bombs, no matter how much the signs that say “Do not joke about firearms/bombs” make me want to.

Monday night: Depart Los Angeles, California for New Orleans, Louisiana

Very early Tuesday morning:  Arrive New Orleans, Louisiana, looking and feeling like a foot.

To aid you in imagining this I have drawn an informative map that highlights both my geographical ignorance and my enthusiasm for MS paint:

When you look at it like that, it doesn’t even look like it will take almost 30 hours!  YAYYYY!

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Stak
    Jul 12, 2012

    THIS BLOG IS BIASED AND I RESENT YOUR CHEESE RACISM.

    GET OUTTA MY CUNTRY.

  2. Keira McKenzie
    Jul 12, 2012

    where’s your *follow* button?

  3. Keira McKenzie
    Jul 12, 2012

    & Cthulhu’s in the Pacific – seriously. Just shy of the oceanic pole of inaccessibility :-)

  4. Emma
    Jul 14, 2012

    Perth has that much less crime than New Orleans? But what about all the king hitting and bottle bashing and Northbridge!? Northbridge Kia!
    I’m glad you’re doing this blog thing, I had more to that sentence but I managed to forget it.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


powered by Gonzo Media